Whether in Germany, Europe or in the States, BONFIRE are, and will remain, rock giants. Without their influence on the melodic rock scene, an important chapter in international rock music history would have remained unwritten. Whatever the future brings, one thing is clear – the tours are running, the gigs are booked and the guitars are red hot – the BONFIRE is still burning!
Vocalist Claus Lessmann and guitarist Hans Ziller gathered the hard Rock quintet CACUMEN around them at the beginning of the 1980s in Ingolstadt, whose incidently have recently been re-released on CD. The quintet first released two albums Cacumen (1981) and Bad Widow (1983) through different Indie labels. Cacumen took the fans of hard & heavy sounds by storm, but it took three more years before the absolute break-through for the songwriting duo Lessmann/Ziller, when they changed the name of their project to "BONFIRE". BONFIRE's debut album Don't Touch the Light (1986) became one of the most successful first releases by a German band of this genre thanks to its perfect mixture of haunting melodies and chilling crystal-clear rock music.
The follow-up album Fireworks, released one year later, stayed in the German album charts for thirty weeks and is considered to be the "Made in Germany" Hard Rock classic to this day. Furthermore, BONFIRE have confirmed their reputation as exceptionally good live musicians during their extensive tours around Europe -- with ZZ Top and Judas Priest, among others. When put to the test, BONFIRE can sweep away a more mainstream-oriented audience as well as die-hard heavy metal fans with their thrilling performances.
But in the middle of working on their third album Point Blank (1989) - which, like the earlier albums, was produced by master producer Michael Wagener -- guitarist Hans Ziller left BONFIRE because of insurmountable differences with the management and began a project of his own called EZ Livin'. In the meantime, singer Claus Lessmann and Co. reinforced their status, which they had worked so hard for over the years, with the release of Point Blank. Their tour through Europe at the end of 1989 was completely sold-out and left a lot of happy fans with unforgettable memories of their concerts.
In 1991, BONFIRE recorded its fourth album Knockout, under the direction of veteran producer Mack (Queen and others). Knockout is more melodious, more easy going than its predecessors, but the album still sold more than 60,000 copies to fans, who stayed loyal to earthy, genuine Rock in spite of the then-rising boom in Grunge music.
After a two year rest, vocalist Claus Lessmann and his old songwriting partner Hans Ziller came back together to try their hand at German language Rock -- the result was the EP Glaub' dran (1994).
Thus, the 1996 release of Feels Like Coming Home, an album which also includes Glaub dran- material, now completely re-arranged and equipped with English lyrics, can be considered as a return to old strengths and as a final rehearsal for the comeback, which BONFIRE had one year later with Rebel Soul, an album recorded with almost the same line-up which they have at present.
Still in 1996, a limited edition of the German language album Freudenfeuer was released. Since BONFIRE were back together again, 10.000 copies of the album were sold in no time and the album is now considered a collector's item.
In the meantime Rebel Soul turned out to be a highly stimulating Rock opus, with which the duo Lessmann/Ziller and their band members made clear that "Hard Rock from Germany" is more alive than ever, even though there are some harsh winds blowing in this particular field of the music business.
In 1999, the quintet succeeded in reviving the "good old days" vibes with their album Fuel to the Flames and they brought back to life the spirit of albums such as Don't Touch the Light and Fireworks. Even though the business atmosphere for traditional Rock sounds was hardly optimistic at the time, Fuel to the Flames entered the German album charts right off at No. 32 and stayed in the charts for a respectable seven weeks.
Strike X, recorded at Munich's legendary Sator Sound Studio and released on April 2, 2001, continues uncompromisingly with the "back to the roots" motto of the four musicians from Ingolstadt. The opening track “Under Blue Skies” fascinates the listener with its symbiosis of dark and heavy beats, reminiscent of Black Sabbath, and its epic-monumental nuances on the one hand, while following a haunting melody in the vocal part on the other hand. A successful European tour followed the release of this album.
2002 saw the release of the long-awaited double-album and DVD 29 Golden Bullets – The Very Best of BONFIRE, to the delight of old and new fans alike. BONFIRE are with this album once again number one in the rock scene and wee seen playing continuously throughout Europe on the “Golden Bullets” tour. Despite numerous successes and a clearly promising future, Chris Lausmann decides to part from the band after twelve years due to personal reasons. A growing fan-request for a new live album grew to a peak in this year and as a result the album, Golden Bullets - Live over Europe was released in November together with the publication of the band’s new award-winning website “The-Flame.com” – today www.bonfire.de.
Few realized it, but the band followed their creative drive and were already making plans for the future in shape of a partnership with Swedish song-writer and hit-maker Marcus Black for the single “Tell Me What U Know”. Following a successful European Tour as support for Whitesnake, the studio-album Free was released. A highly professional and well produced album that entered into news realms of experimentation for the band and nevertheless managed to enter the official German album charts.
Continuing with their creativity and underlining their talent to never fail to surprise, BONFIRE went on to release One Acoustic Night – Live at the Private Music Club – a clear statement and a chance to draw breath before going into the studio once more and commencing work on a new studio album. Already on board: new guitarist and studio wizard Chris “Yps” Limburg.
BONFIRE, whose songs have sold over 6 million copies worldwide, remain ambitious and are always eager to strive for new goals. Towards the end of One Acoustic Night-tour came the South-East Asian tsunami catastrophe for which Claus Lessmann and Hans Ziller brought the “Rock for Asia” into being – a benefit concert of mammoth proportions involving numerous renown names from the world of rock. Over 100.000 euros were collected through this gala concert in Ingolstadt alone, which included a surprise make-over of one of the band’s most well-known hits “Rock n’ Roll Cowboy” 2005. The release of the One Acoustic Night-CD and DVD featuring the Spanish version of “Rock n’ Roll Cowboy” followed together with numerous gigs in Greece and Spain.
There’s no doubt about it – BONFIRE have still lots planned and after more than 1200 live gigs, still set standards for hard rock.
April 2006 saw the release of the band’s latest critically acclaimed studio album Double X. The album came hand in hand with a jubilee tour, beginning on the 29th of April, which took the band across Europe for a whole year with storming appearances in Sweden (the legendary Sweden Rock Festival), Greece, Spain, Italy and last but not least England. In the United Kingdom at the well-known “Firefest” the band has recorded and later on released a Live-DVD and CD entitled Double Vision.
In 2008 The Räuber has been released. Not only the new BONFIRE-album but also the soundtrack to the hugely successful new rock opera-version of the classical Friedrich Schiller-play that has been brought to the theatrical stage in Ingolstadt and has already seen dozens of sold-out performances. One of them has also been presented on the official The Räuber-double-DVD – next to tons of spectacular bonus features and the video to the new version of the chart breaking ballad “You Make Me Feel”. In the meantime “You Make Me Feel 2008” appeared on the latest edition of the mega selling Playstation game “Sing Star”.
After a storming performance at last year’s Rocklahoma Festival – the band’s first concert in the USA after 21 years - next to the likes of Twisted Sister, Ratt, Night Ranger or Skid Row - and after the release of the compilation You Make Me Feel: The Ballads BONFIRE have released a very special single on Universal Music: the sensational rock version of the German national anthem simply called “Deutsche Nationalhymne”. BONFIRE’s first Top 40 single ever and a single that stayed in the German single charts for weeks.
In 2011 the band is celebrating it’s 25 anniversary with the new studio album “Branded”. That came out in January hit the official German album charts and the band celebrated that fact release big-style throughout the year. Many concerts and festivals with the likes of Journey, Foreigner, Cinderella, Hammerfall, John Waite, Edguy, H-Blockx or again Night Ranger have been played followed by the release of the Live-CD “Fireworks…Still Alive” in the fall.
Preparations for the next Bonfire studio album have already started but will be interrupted by another prestigious project. The cooperation with the world- famous organization PETA through the beneficial EP “Cry 4 Help” due out in may 2012.
As always: don’t even think about not letting the Bonfire burning anymore…